Did Chris Philp confuse Rwanda and Congo on Question Time?

Opposition parties have criticised Home Office minister Chris Philp for appearing to confuse two African countries on BBC Question Time.

An audience member from the Democratic Republic of the Congo asked about the government's new law on deporting some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Responding, policing minister Mr Philp appeared to ask if Rwanda and Congo were different countries.

An ally later suggested he had been posing a rhetorical question.

The government's Rwanda bill became law on Thursday, and says any asylum seeker entering the UK "illegally" after 1 January 2022 from a safe country, could be sent on a one-way flight to Rwanda.

The audience member pointed out that there had been recent conflict between Congo and neighbouring Rwanda and a long history of violence.

He asked: "Had my family members come from Goma (a city on the DR Congo's border with Rwanda) on a crossing right now, would they then be sent back to the country they are supposedly warring - Rwanda?

"Does that make any sense to you?"

Mr Philp replied: "No, I think there's an exclusion on people from Rwanda being sent to Rwanda."

BBC Question Time Audience

After the audience member objected that his parents were "not from Rwanda", the minister said: "Well, I mean, Rwanda is a different country to Congo isn't it?

"It's a different country?"

The comment caused a short outburst of laughter from some members of the debate programme's audience as Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting's eyes darted around the room.

Mr Philp continued: "There is a clause in the legislation that says if somebody would suffer, I think the phrase is 'serious and irreversible harm' by being sent somewhere, they wouldn't be sent.

"So there is that safety mechanism built into the legislation."

Labour's shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the government was sending £576m to a country they "couldn't even pick out on a map". The Liberal Democrats' Sarah Olney said it showed this was "not a serious government".

An ally of Mr Philp suggested the minister had been asking a rhetorical question, rather than a real one, as he tried to clarify what he had been asked.

The Home Office has said there will be a case-by-case risk assessment when determining people's suitability for relocation.

In 2022 Rwanda's minister for foreign affairs Vincent Biruta said the government would prefer not to receive people from neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda or Tanzania.

You can watch the latest episode of Question Time, which was recorded in Tottenham, north London, here.